These are my black & white boots. I wear them to weddings, dive bars and tv talk shows. I love these boots…and it shows.
I’m sending them to Raúl Ojeda , so he can make them pretty again. Raúl is among the trusted few. I can put my boots in a box and mail them to him and all I have to say is “Please make them pretty, like they used to be.” He knows what I mean… and what is at stake. He knows that if the white stitches were erased with polish or ink, well…
I would be sad.
My heart would shatter into a thousand tiny pieces, and crunch on the shop floor like broken glass. Bits of my heart would get stuck in the tread of the UPS guy’s sneakers. Each night, when the men swept up the thread and the tacks, they would find a few more pieces… they would forget until they remembered, on and on for years …and years, and their hearts would ache like a poem.
Raúl knows all that.
– – –
Willie’s Shoe Service
1174 S La Brea Avenue (between La Brea & Edgewood)
There are a handful of men I trust to repair my boots, and even fewer willing to do it.
(FACT: If you buy custom cowboy boots this isn’t a problem. Your bootmaker will resole, repair and re-ink any boot he/she makes. They will charge you money for this service and some may grumble in the privacy of the shop, but that’s the deal.)
Okay. Now, this is where we separate the boot nerds from the rest of the internet. Look at the this photo. See the WHITE stitches around each toe? See the NATURAL colored leather welt where the stitches sit? And, see the edge of the welt? It is inked BLACK …just like the heel and sole… then coated with a thin layer of wax… then buffed and burnished.
It would be very easy to make this all go away.
Why does it matter to me? Because, it’s beautiful… Because this is a handmade boot and I love to look at its parts. There is a special tool to press the ditch between each stitch. I like to look at the contrast between the heavy thread and the leather. I like to look at the tiny shadows.
The natural welt acts like chrome on a cool car… especially on a brown or black cowboy boot. It lets you see the boot’s shape, angles and curves.
So, I fret about boot repair. And I wait too long. I dodge the guy at the airport with the shoeshine stand… and the guys at the mall. And anyone who has a brush in their hand and is pointing at my feet… yelling… “¡Ma’am, Ma’am!!”
I box up my boots and send them to a friend… who knows exactly how I got to be this kind of crazy. And I get the boots back, not with an invoice… but a play-by-play of the day I missed at the shop. .. with a star written in all caps.
“CLEAN BOOTS WITH LIQUID GLYCERIN. LEVEL HEEL BLOCKS, NEW HEEL PADS 18 SOMETHING SOMETHING HEELS. SCRUB WELTS AND SOLE STITCHES. *TAPE WELTS OFF TO KEEP SOLE STITCHES WHITE.APPLY 2 COATS SOMETHING .”
… what Brian C. Thomas actually said to me, “I SCRUBBED THE SNOT OUTA THEM.”
I paid Brian C. Thomas cash money to repair my boots … enough cover his materials, but probably not for all his trouble. Brian is a longtime friend. He fixed my boots without any expectation I would write about the work on my blog.